Footprints Camp, where Trail Running and Future Climate Leaders meet.
Do you see yourself as a climate leader in your community?
Footprints Running Camp is about to touch down in Australia, at Warburton Camp, Wurundjeri Country, Victorian Central Highlands (20-25th April). There isn’t anything else like it. You’ll either want to follow along if you can’t make it or apply to attend for yourself. Imagine a week where trail running, science, entrepreneurship, storytelling, leadership and advocacy meet to help empower the chosen individuals to take climate action.
Chosen participants will learn to become climate leaders, prompting education and collective community action. The Australian camp is slightly different from the US, where individuals proposed their own outdoor-focused projects. At Footprints Australia, individuals will work together to preserve the Great Forest, whilst using running as a means to get there!
Whilst new to Australia, Footprints Camp was created by professional trail and NNormal athlete, Dakota Jonesand was hosted in the San Juan Mountains and Silverton, CO in 2022.
At Footprints, individuals will workshop their ideas and collaborate with climate leaders and mentors, including:
Award-winning filmmaker, Beau Miles
WWF Threatened Species and Climate Adaptation Ecologist Dr. Kita Ashman
New world crafter and Co-creator of the bestseller book ‘The Great Forest’, Sarah Rees
150 marathon in 150 days marathon runner, Erchana Murray-Bartlett
Creator of Takayna Trail, Pilliga Ultra, For Wild Places and Footprints, Simon Harris
Alongside this, they’ll have the opportunity to run or hike amongst ancient forests, including the world’s tallest flowering trees. Generally, you’ll get the morning to immerse yourself in this environment, guided by trail runner and camp facilitator, Majell Backhausen, Patagonia Sports Community Manager. In the afternoon camp participants and mentors will meet to develop actionable plans to preserve the Great Forest in the National Park, take away actionable insights from mentors and presentations, and learn from each other. ‘Campers will have a fun experience and be inspired by what others are doing, by what they can do, and come away feeling prepared to take action on climate change. We want to provide them with the inspiration, know-how, and confidence to be effective climate action leaders.”
– Simon Harris, the Co-founder of Footprints Australia
In essence, Footprints facilitates the meeting of like-minded individuals in the ultimate environment to grow as future climate leaders who can make significant waves in their communities and the broader outdoor industry. The camp is held somewhere with limited phone and internet reception, deliberately. Fostering connections and intentional conversation is really important. It’s environments like Footprints Running Camp where the magic happens.
How Can I Apply For Footprints?
Be a part of the first Footprints camp to take place in Australia, on the lands of the Wurundjeri people, in the beautiful Victorian Central Highlands.
There are 2 scholarships available, thanks to Wild Allies for participants regardless of financial needs.
If you would like to apply or know someone that would benefit from a scholarship please send 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org as to what it would mean to take part in Footprints camp. All participants need to be over 18 years of age.
The scholarship includes:
Full entry into the camp
Running kit provided by Patagonia
Running shoes provided by Paddy Pallin
Food across the event
Assistance in transport from Melbourne to camp and return
Australian Trail Athlete Paige Penrose’s Experience at Footprints Running Camp in Colorado.
Paige Penrose is an outstanding trail athlete, hailing from Stanwell Park, Australia, and currently studying Kinesiology whilst competing in NCAA Track/XC at The University of Nevada, Reno. She was lucky enough to be chosen to attend Footprints Running Camp in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado in 2022. She shares a bit about her time at the camp, her project, and key learnings below.
‘You can’t stand and care for something you don’t know, so allowing these people to get outside just increases the number of people who are standing up for the planet.’
– Paige Penrose
Tell Us About Your Experience at Footprints.
I arrived at Footprints having just moved across the world to find my way in a new sport at a new school. What I found in that mountain hut at 3500m with no electricity, minimal running water, and indoor drop toilets, was family, hope, and whooooole lot of stoke. This period of my life was one of the most unsettling, a close second to the first few days of basic military training in Wagga Wagga at age 18 a couple of months after finishing high school. The week I spent in that hut made it all ok. Each day we ran, we ate, we bathed in ice-cold creeks, we learned about peatlands, the impacts of warming oceans, and how to tell stories. Everyone came from extremely different backgrounds, but we all belong to the same Earth. We started to learn how many different ways it can be experienced, how many ways you can connect to it, and how many ways we can help to make sure it is taken care of.
What is your project? How did Footprints help you develop your project further?
I came into footprints knowing I wanted to do something towards making it easier for athletes with disabilities to get outside. I didn’t know how to turn that into a tangible project but that is exactly what those seven days on the side of a mountain were for. My project is centered around increasing the outdoor state. That is, the number of people, from all walks of life, who feel a connection to want to stand for wild places. I find human movement phenomenal but it’s not so simple for everyone. We like to think of trail running as a welcoming sport and community but the truth is that we have a long way to go in making it truly accessible.
It’s taking some time and longer than I would like because NCAA running and full-time study is no joke but I’m in the process of developing a package for race directors to implement at their events to establish a para category and provide the means to get as many people out on trails as we can. Human movement and sport have deep-seated conceptions about what movement ’should’ look like but in reality, there are many many ways to traverse a trail. Eventually, I hope to tie this directly back into climate action and make sure those trails are there for a long time. For everybody.
What are some key takeaways from your trip which you think we could all benefit from hearing?
The biggest thing I took away from Footprints was the variation in what environmental advocacy can look like. You don’t need to be studying environmental science, engineering, or law in order to make a difference. Footprints brought together a small group of hugely varied individuals. There were students, researchers, teachers, professional skiers, writers, and lawyers turned environmental/social justice entrepreneurs. We need people in every sector of society to do what they can because that is what it’s going to take. It doesn’t matter what position you find yourself in right now, there is always something to be done. It doesn’t matter how big or small. You don’t need to change careers (although you could!) you don’t have to be doing every single thing “right”, although some people and some companies seem to make you want to believe that. We are all drops in a very, very large ocean
Thank you Paige for sharing some of your experiences and learnings. For more information on Footprints Camp in Australia, visit:
Strava Elevation Gain: How to correct and manually add elevation to your Strava Activity
If you’re a vert nerd like me (sometimes), I like to ensure I’m tracking this as accurately as possible. This is particularly important if you’re trying to do race-specific sessions or long runs, and want accurate data from the run to upload to Strava or be recorded on Strava. A big question I had recently was, how do I manually add in a run with vert? For example, if I do a treadmill run with an incline:
How do I know how much vertical gain I climbed? (particularly if you can’t sync your watch to the treadmill via Bluetooth)
How do I add this in vertical gain manually to Strava?
Let’s break it down.
How do I figure out how much I climbed during my treadmill run?
It’s hard to figure out how much you’ve climbed on the treadmill if you are constantly changing gradients. However, if you plan on how much mileage you’ll run at a certain gradient, you can figure out just about how much you climbed during your treadmill run. I personally use this resource to figure out the specifics of my run, based on how much gradient I need to put on the treadmill to simulate my mountain run. Calculate Elevation Gain on a Treadmill workout, Click here.
The other option is to sync your tracking device to the treadmill via Bluetooth if this option is available. This can sometimes allow for elevation tracking.
How do I add this in vertical gain manually to Strava?
It would be so cool if we could do this on the app, but it’s not possible. What is possible from the Strava app standpoint is the ability to adjust elevation gain to match the map data or your watch data. Often if your data looks whack when you upload it from your watch to Strava, all you need to do is adjust elevation (no more bonus vert or under-measuring vert!) See my screenshot below on how to do all of this.
How to add Vertical Gain manually on the Strava Website:
1. On the top right-hand corner click the plus sign, then click ‘Add manual entry’
2. On the ‘Manual Entry’ page, you’ll see ‘elevation’. Type in your elevation from your treadmill run or activity here:
How to adjust incorrect elevation on Strava Web:
Click into your activity, and then hit the 3 dots on the left-hand column. Here a menu will appear. Hit, ‘Correct Elevation’. You can always revert this using the same method too. See the screenshot below:
How to adjust elevation on the Strava App
In the app, click on your activity. Hit the 3 dots up top to the far right-hand side. Click ‘ Adjust Elevation’. See screenshot.
What is the difference between elevation gain and max elevation Strava?
Elevation gain is the total amount climbed over the duration of your activity. Max elevation is a recording of the highest point you attained during your activity. You can see these stats by opening up your activity and clicking ‘View Analysis’.
How does elevation gain work on Strava?
Strava uses a combination of GPS and barometric pressure data to calculate elevation gain on activities. The GPS data provides information about the distance traveled, while the barometric pressure data is used to measure changes in altitude. By combining these two pieces of information, Strava can calculate the total elevation gain for an activity.
Barometric pressure sensors are present on many GPS devices, including most modern smartphones. These sensors measure changes in air pressure, which can be used to estimate changes in altitude. Strava uses this data to calculate elevation gain by identifying the change in altitude between each data point in an activity and summing up the positive changes in elevation.
It is worth noting that the accuracy of elevation gain calculations can be affected by factors such as signal quality, weather conditions, and device calibration. In some cases, Strava may also apply filtering algorithms to the data to remove noise and ensure more accurate results.
My friend and I friend have different elevation data on Strava, why?
If you have differences in elevation data say with a teammate who ran the same route, it is likely due to differing GPS device data. Discussed above is how to adjust elevation data on both the Strava App and Strava website so it is more accurate. Strava will utilize inbuilt map elevation data to provide you with a better reading, overriding the GPS data provided. However, you can readjust this.
Is Strava elevation gain accurate?
Strava’s GPS data accuracy can depend on several factors, such as the device used to record the activity, the signal strength, the location, and the environment.
In general, Strava’s GPS data can be quite accurate, with an error margin of a few meters or less. However, there are cases where the data may be less accurate due to signal interference, such as tall buildings or dense forests. GPS signals can also be affected by weather conditions such as cloud cover, precipitation, or even solar flares.
Strava uses a number of techniques to improve the accuracy of its GPS data, including data smoothing, noise filtering, and advanced algorithms that can correct errors in GPS signals. Additionally, Strava’s data analysis tools can help identify and remove anomalous data points, which can further improve accuracy.
Overall, while there is no guarantee of perfect accuracy with any GPS tracking system, Strava’s GPS data is generally reliable and accurate enough for most users. If precise measurements are required, it may be beneficial to use a dedicated GPS device or consider other options for improving accuracy.
Does elevation gain include downhill?
No, elevation gain is solely the climbing (the ‘gain) you attained during your activity.
You’ve probably heard the abbreviation ‘HRV’ talked about numerous times on podcasts, articles, and research journals, maybe from teammates or your coach. It seems to be all the rage, despite being around for years. I put this down to the increase in popularity of measuring physiological data for athletes, primarily because this data is now so accessible. HRV can be a confusing thing to understand, and the goal of this article is to help simplify this measurement, and how to practically apply it to your training or lifestyle. However, it’s important to note, that there is no ‘magic’ behind HRV, it’s not a number that should drastically change your training, or life for that matter. It can be a great indicator of whether things like hard interval training sessions are providing the athlete with the desired stimulus when this data is repeated and collected over a period of time. It’s often used to determine if someone is getting sick or overtraining. Nordic skiers and other data-savvy sportspeople (under the guidance of professionals) have been measuring HR (heart rate) data for years. As a nordic skier, I remember being told to take my resting HR every morning when I woke up, from about 15 years old, to help indicate whether I needed to focus more on recovery or could choose to push harder that day.
Whilst HRV is not the same as HR (the number of times the heart beats per minute), measuring HR can be a useful component of an athlete’s data collection/history as it can provide insight over time about recovery and training adaptations. So, what is HRV (heart rate variability)?
What is HRV?
HRV is the abbreviation for Heart Rate Variability. HRV refers to the variation in time intervals between successive heartbeats. I think most people believe that the Heart is like a perfect metronome, beating at precise intervals. However, the heart is actually dynamic, consistently adjusting to the needs of the body. The heartbeat normally increases and decreases with breathing – so with inspiration, (you are sucking venous return into the heart) the pulse rate rises, and slows with expiration. This is called sinus arrhythmia and is normal – associated with the vagus nerve. HRV is a measurement reflecting the ability of the heart to make these adjustments. We can take HRV as a physiological measurement which can provide some insight into recovery and training adaptations, that are best analysed over the long term. Generally, a reduced HRV could be correlated with a heavy training stimulus, a viral load, a large accumulated stress external to training, poor sleep, overtraining, and alcohol intake, to name a few. An increased HRV could potentially indicate adequate recovery, good sleep quality, and nutrition, or that you’ve had a few days of lower-intensity training.
HRV: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nervous system
It’s important to understand the basics of the autonomic nervous system to provide some context here since HRV is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is responsible for controlling functions such as heart rate, breathing, temperature regulation, digestion, etc. The two main branches are the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for what we know as, the “flight, fright or fight” response. This causes an increase in HR, epinephrine causing a release of glucose into the bloodstream for energy, increased oxygen uptake capacity, and the diversion of blood flow towards working muscles and the brain and away from essential organs. This state is an important component of optimal performance, but it is not a state you can maintain.
The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest and recovery. The opposite of sympathetic. This system will slow down HR, promote digestion, divert energy to essential organs, and regulate the body to a more restful state. Functioning at all times is a balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
Elite and/or well-trained athletes who have a higher HRV may be able to recover quicker from training sessions, due to a more active parasympathetic nervous system which allows for a return of HRV to their ‘baseline’ levels. However, more amateur athletes, or athletes who aren’t optimising their training or lifestyle for adequate recovery, could find they have an HRV that is gradually decreasing. This is likely a sign of accumulated sympathetic stress. This can also, of course, come from sources external to physical training.
Can you use an HRV Training Model for running?
Athletes can choose to use an HRV training model, however, this isn’t necessarily as effective as a well-rounded* training model, as external stressors have an impact on your HRV score; it is a sum of all stressors. HRV should be incorporated into a training model as a data metric to help inform decisions about training and recovery,
* by well-rounded, I mean multiple metrics, lifestyle factors, and athlete general well-being and feeling are taken into account. A short survey paired with an HRV measurement can assist with this! For example, you can have a high HRV reading, but feel worse than the score indicates. Don’t let this be the sole deciding factor or metric for your training. Make decisions based on combined metrics and internal feelings, especially when this data is gathered consistently over time. You know yourself best!
I’ll briefly present the findings of a study below to explain how HRV could be used to inform endurance training: A paper published by Kiviniemi et al., 2007 focused on endurance training guided by HRV data, utilizing 26 relatively fit male athletes.
The study aimed to determine how HRV could be used to inform endurance training, utilizing an HRV-guided training group, a predefined training group (TRA), and a control group. A 4-week running protocol was prescribed, with the TRA group running 6 days a week consisting of 40-minute runs – 2 sessions were low intensity and 4 were high intensity. The HRV-guided training group was prescribed a traditional model of high-intensity prescription on the increase and no-change HRV days, a low-intensity and/or rest on low HRV days or steadily decreasing HRV trends. Maximal treadmill tests to determine VO2 peak and maximal running velocity, Load(max), were taken before and after the training intervention. The study found that the HRV group had a significant increase in maximal running velocity and VO2 peak. Compared to the predefined training group, VO2 peak changes were not significant however Load(max) was.
Another paper published more recently, by Vesterinen et al., 2016 studied the effectiveness of HRV on recreational endurance athletes training prescription and found that HRV measurement could be useful to determine the timing of high-intensity training sessions. What was particularly interesting about this paper was the HRV training prescribed subject group performed fewer HIIT sessions than the traditional training group, however, improved more significantly in the 3k run performance test at the end of the intervention. This supports how important recovery is!
If you do choose to use this metric as a true training guide, make sure you have a pool of workouts to choose from when HRV is low, medium, or high. A sign that something isn’t right is if your HRV score is decreasing over time. This can be a sign of accumulated sympathetic stress.
I think it is important to be aware that most HRV apps use a colour scheme, for example, green is good, and red is bad. If you’re prone to higher levels of anxiety pre-competition, it may be best not to measure your HRV on the day of competition. A red zone HRV doesn’t necessarily indicate that you won’t perform well. For example, poor sleep the night before a big race may influence your HRV score. This doesn’t indicate poor performance. How many Olympians do you think to get a great night of sleep before their Olympic final race? Not many!
How does being a multi-sport athlete influence HRV?
Day-to-day fluctuations in HRV scores will likely exist inathletes who compete in multiple sports.
Fluctuations will vary depending on the type, load, and intensity of the sports they participate in. For example, endurance exercise in a well-trained athlete results in a stronger parasympathetic drive, and that is a higher vagal tone. It’s all about the balance of the nervous systems.
Sports that are of higher intensity like sprinting and power-lifting may result in decreased HRV scores because of a higher sympathetic response and increased stress on the body. Nonetheless, hard interval sessions in any sport will induce a higher HRV in the short term. Great recovery practices become a key component in bettering HRV scores in this scenario.
It’s important to make sure your training schedule as a multi-sport athlete allows for proper recovery time, otherwise, you may see a trend of decreasing HRV. Proper rest and recovery are crucial to improving overall performance.
It’s important to make sure your training schedule as a multi-sport athlete allows for proper recovery time, otherwise, you may see a trend of decreasing HRV. Proper rest and recovery are crucial to improving overall performance
What factors influence HRV?
A variety of physiological (changeable and non-changeable) and environmental conditions can impact HRV, as this metric directly relates to the adaptation of the heart under various conditions. Endurance athletes generally have a higher HRV than the general population. This is because the cardiovascular system has adapted to varied training loads, frequency, and intensity over time, creating a more efficient system and improved cardiovascular health. Below I’ve listed out some of the conditions that could influence HRV:
Environmental factors influencing HRV
Extreme climates: the hotter or cooler the environment, the more likely a decline in HRV, more moderate environments tend to infer a higher HRV
Altitude: due to lower oxygen availability, higher stress is placed on the autonomic nervous system, causing a potential decrease in HRV.
Air Pollution: any cause of respiratory stress can cause a decrease in HRV.
HRV is highest in the morning generally, and lower in the evening.
Conditions of social isolation can cause lowered HRV, and vice versa.
A job requiring prolonged standing or sitting can reduce HRV, particularly if the actions are repeated day in and day out.
A poor diet can reduce HRV – too much caffeine, alcohol, fats, sugars, beta blockers etc.
Dehydration. It is not uncommon for athletes not to rehydrate well after a long training session
Emotional health and wellbeing – a stressful lifestyle will reduce HRV. Techniques such as meditation and deep breathing can increase HRV.
Poor sleep can reduce HRV, particularly if this accumulates
Illness – URTI, and other causes of inflammation and infection.
Physiological factors influencing HRV
Elite and highly trained athletes tend to have a better balance (the parasympathetic nervous system is generally more dominant, which counters the stress of high-level training), and therefore higher HRV readings.
Respiratory function, in particular, rate and depth. Changes in breathing function can impact HRV. Slower, more meditative breathing can heighten HRV, and shorter, shallow breathing can decrease it. Anxious individuals tend to breathe through their apices (the top part of the lungs), which will negatively affect oxygen exchange, core control, and HRV.
HRV tends to decline as we age, and often is higher in women than men
Physical activity tends to increase HRV. Why? Put simply you are improving cardiovascular fitness and promoting more parasympathetic activity.
Training load: Endurance training and racing can increase the stress on the body, and a high training load can lead to reduced HRV. On the other hand, proper recovery and rest can lead to an increase in HRV. Overtraining can reduce HRV.
HRV and VO2max are two different metrics that can indicate components of physiological fitness, but do not have a direct relationship. VO2max is a measure of maximal oxygen uptake during exercise. The percentage of your VO2max you can maintain is considered a key indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness, whilst HRV measures the variations in time between consecutive heartbeats. Interestingly, whilst a high VO2max is better, if you can only maintain say 50% of VO2max and another can maintain 80%, they will do better. Evidence exists to suggest that individuals who have a higher HRV may also have a higher VO2max, but there are many factors at play, such as age, genetics, training load, sex etc. in this relationship to make solid conclusions.
A systematic review conducted by Granero-Gallegos et al., 2020, titled ‘HRV-Based Training for Improving VO2max in Endurance Athletes’, found \that HRV-based training tended to improve VO2max in well-trained athletes compared to a stock standard training protocol. However, this does not necessarily infer that having a higher HRV score indicates a good VO2max. This study simply highlighted that utilizing HRV as a means to make decisions around training could improve VO2max metrics in well-trained endurance athletes.
In my opinion, don’t rely solely on HRV, or any metric, to determine your overall fitness/health or what training you should do for the day. Rather, utilize a combination of metrics, analysis of these metrics over time, coaching advice, and intuition of feeling to make more informed decisions.
Fatisson, J., Oswald, V., & Lalonde, F. (2016). Influence diagram of physiological and environmental factors affecting heart rate variability: an extended literature overview. Heart international, 11(1), e32–e40. https://doi.org/10.5301/heartint.5000232
Granero-Gallegos, A., González-Quílez, A., Plews, D., & Carrasco-Poyatos, M. (2020). HRV-Based Training for Improving VO2max in Endurance Athletes. A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(21), 7999. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217999
Kiviniemi, A. M., Hautala, A. J., Kinnunen, H., & Tulppo, M. P. (2007). Endurance training guided individually by daily heart rate variability measurements. European journal of applied physiology, 101(6), 743–751. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-007-0552-2
Soos MP, McComb D. Sinus Arrhythmia. [Updated 2022 Nov 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537011/
Vesterinen, V., Nummela, A., Heikura, I., Laine, T., Hynynen, E., Botella, J., & Häkkinen, K. (2016). Individual Endurance Training Prescription with Heart Rate Variability. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(7), 1347–1354. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000910
It still does. They call AS the ‘young person’s arthritis’, and when I heard that, I hated it. I associated it with being limited, and I wanted to be unlimited. I’d travelled to Switzerland to compete for Australia, I’d won Australian and Oceania XC running titles, made the all time Australian fastest 5k and 10k list in 2018, and was on the podium at nordic ski races, I’d gathered the support of various sponsors and eventually made the move to the US to run in D1 NCAA. I really wanted to grab life by the horns.
AS affects 1-2% of Australians, that’s around 520,000 people, and is 3 times more common in men than women. (Empowered – Arthritis Australia, n.d.) 3.2 Million people in the US have AS. It’s most commonly diagnosed between 15-40, however 80% of patients will experience symptoms before the age of 30. (Ankylosing Spondylitis : Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment, n.d.) On average it takes more than 3 years after symptom onset for the diagnosis to be made in a teenager or young adult. It’s a small percentage of the population, and my chances of having it were small, but I did. The reality is the emotional and physical impacts are immense, particularly if you’re yet to be diagnosed (this condition can be tricky to spot), or having trouble obtaining treatment (it’s a lengthy process, as without government or insurance support, the injections cost around 60k a year).
I’ve forever known myself to be a go-getter, and somewhat of a perfectionist. Being diagnosed with AS challenged parts of who I am immensely. It was both a physical and emotional thing. The constant pain lingering felt like a constant ‘hum’, that at times made me feel like I should just give up. Then it would suddenly disappear for a couple of days and I’d really get moving again. The unpredictability of the pain made me feel unstable, and I really struggled with that. I love planning and chipping away at something, but AS didn’t allow for that. I had to learn to find stability in the instability. It was a microcosm for living life in general.
I spent from around the time of diagnosis, October 2021 to September of this year in disbelief that I actually had the condition. It sounds stupid right, like, if multiple doctors are pretty convinced, you should definitely think so too. There was always the chance it wasn’t, and that my anxiety around having potentially ‘ruined’ myself in my early years and being a washed up junior athlete would become the truth. Early treatment wasn’t working, which didn’t give me any further hope. All I could do is what I’ve always done, keep persisting and doing what I can do. I just knew it wasn’t what I had the potential to do; I felt limited. I’d known something wasn’t quite right long before the diagnosis, but neither I nor any doctor could pinpoint it. It took 4 years to really find out and more recently to begin to make a turn for the better, to feel like I could be that high-level athlete again.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when things started. However, we are pretty sure it was late 2018 at 20 years old, when very atypical tendon pain and other inexplicable injuries started to ravage my training and performance. I’d only been running properly for 2 years, coming from a nordic skiing background, and I hadn’t explored high volume training yet. I felt like I ‘survived’ through 2019 with some success on the Boise State University XC and Track NCAA program, however, things were never quite right, and by the time I started to feel a bit better, COVID hit and the next 2 years were spent living in a grey sort of state with my sport. I was stuck in the US with strict COVID laws in Australia preventing me from returning, and needing to finish my Master’s. It wasn’t until I returned to Australia in 2021 that things calmed down and I was properly diagnosed.
There currently isn’t a cure, however there are medications which can improve quality of life drastically. I began fortnightly injections called ‘Biologics’, in September this year and they have changed the game for me. I didn’t trust that they would, but I have less and less days in pain, less flare ups, and my mental health and performance has improved as a result.
Sometimes I still let fear get the better of me and wonder if I’ll ever compete as I did before this condition crept its way into my life. I recognize that this isn’t a helpful way to think, and that I have to actively practice living in the now more than trying to predict the future. I do know, whatever the case, AS has taught me to persevere and get myself out of the weeds, no matter the challenge. I believe I can handle it. I will keep persisting and being resilient. Things tend to work out in some way or another, even if it’s hard to see when you’re caught in the weeds. Uncertainty, fear, anxiety – they are all easily magnified by the world around us. If we can learn to ride out the storms, ask for help, and simply do what we can do in these times…’chop wood, carry water’, it usually will work out.
It was in learning to deal with the realities of Ankylosing Spondylitis that I learnt how to handle disbelief and fear as an athlete. It honed my skills to find stability in instability.
“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.”
2023 is either here for you, or right around the corner. Life will continue to be like a moody ocean. Some days will be calm and clear, you’ll be able to see what’s beneath you, and likely what’s ahead. Other days will be a storm, with persistent waves that feel like they’ll never settle. If you can ride out the occasional storm, and harness the restorative energy in the calm, you have found stability in instability. You’ll get better at getting yourself out of the weeds. You’ll be like a tennis ball, you can bounce back.
Recovery is the key to success. Many athletes can master training as such, especially over years and years, however, beneficial adaptions will not occur to their most optimal standard unless recovery is also understood and ‘mastered’ in a sense (to use that term loosely). It’s pretty simple when we get down to the nuts and bolts of it – sleep and nutrition are king, and outweigh things like foam rolling and active recovery in the long term.
Also, I don’t think I’ve said this before, but when I write these articles I am attempting to do so in a way that makes these topics comprehensible to anyone who decides to give them a read (thank you for being here!). I don’t intend on getting too deep into scientific concepts and the applicable research because I think it would miss the point for my audience reading this and the simplicities of practical application.
It is hard to say what will work best for each individual – to understand this takes testing the practical application of recovery methodologies on yourself. However, there are a few well-known ‘best’ recovery methods for runners derived from both research and, as I mentioned, practical application and positive response.
I wrote a post in mid-2021 on ‘how to have more energy for running’ (click here to read). I bring this up because this article has a lot of cross-over with this current one. Why?
The key is – you get stronger when you recover, not whilst you’re ‘doing’ the said activity. That’s when we apply stress and strain to the body. When we recover well, we adapt well. I really wish someone had explained this to me as a very young athlete with this type of simple wording. The typical athlete is very driven, and quite often it is not a matter of telling them to do more, but more so to train smarter not harder, and recover even better. Another important thing to note, is “stress is stress”. An athlete will hinder their recovery in an environment inducing stress overload. For example, if work is stressful, and the university is stressful, then there isn’t much room for training to be a large stressor too. This is where the balancing act begins.
How Can I Recover Faster From Running?
This is the golden question, and funnily enough the top ‘googled’ question around this topic. Everyone wants to recover faster so they can get back to it faster, right? The goal is to recover well enough to stress the body again (consistency), with the occurrence of adaptions targeted to optimal performance in the activity, and likely, an event/s. If we don’t recover we risk overtraining, which can lead to unfavorable adaptations, or a limit on adaption, illness, injury, etc. You want just enough stress to elicit a favorable response, consistently.
The good news is that there are a few tools that can optimize recovery and therefore elicit optimal performance benefits. However sometimes there’s no ‘magic’, it’s simply a matter of time to allow the body to adapt. This reigns true particularly if training has multiple stressors such as environmental stressors on top of load (heat, altitude, humidity – to name a few). I’ll explore that a bit more below.
Recovery Nutrition For Runners
We need to think of food as energy availability. The food you eat fuels the activity you do and the life you want to live. I like to remember that energy intake has to equal (and better for athletes) energy output. This will ensure not only optimal performance but adequate general health.
We don’t need to track food unless we have specific goals or are guided by a medical professional as that can pose its own issues. However, we need to always eat enough. Food is fuel and the building blocks of repair from our training load. It’s likely you’ve heard of RED-S by now – Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, which will eventuate in adverse health and performance in athletes. RED-S occurs when energy expenditure is not being met adequately with energy intake over a sustained period of time. The adverse effects of underfuelling can impact both male and female athletes, however data trends highlight that, ‘1 in 3 female athletes has 2 or more symptoms of underfuelling’. From a data collection standpoint, it seems that women are more ‘prone’ to this issue, however, it can be easier to tell if a female is under-fuelling.
Well-timed and adequate food intake is a crucial component of recovery. Ideally, endurance athletes will intake a 3:1 ratio of CHO (carbohydrates) to protein within 30 minutes of exercise particularly over an hour in length. If your exercise duration is > 60 minutes, bring fuel with you. This could be gels, liquid nutrition, waffles, or a combo of a few. I personally like Tailwind, Spring Energy and Maurten. I avoid preservatives (sorbates, benzoates, MSG, nitrates, flavour enhancers) at all costs, and these nutrition brands are perfect in that sense. Look out for 200 and 600 numbers on ingredient labels (not including food acids etc.) if you’re trying to be wary of these artificial additives.
Long story short – find food that you enjoy eating, always eat enough, and find what works to fuel your training + life! Nutrition should be a fun part of recovery.
Sleep Recovery For Runners
Sleep is the only time the body fully recovers, so for the runner, (and anyone) sleep is going to be a key component of recovery. I could write a whole piece on this, and I will at some point, but here are the nuts and bolts of it… If you can’t get enough sleep in a night, try for a 20-minute power nap around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. This can elicit beneficial responses. Steve Magness, author and performance coach, recently posted about a NASA study. NASA found that just one, “twenty-five-minute nap improved judgment by 35 percent and vigilance by 16 percent.” The data is clear, short naps do work. Longer naps, not so much as that’s when our nighttime sleep can be negatively impacted. My personal favorite which I was introduced to by my good friend Bastein is to drink a coffee right before the 20-minute nap, and by the time you wake, the coffee will work. It’s a double whammy in that sense!
A properly planned training program
A well-structured training program is a plan, and a plan needs to be flexible. This allows for realistic changes due to life, needing extra recovery time, events, etc. Athletes should have a range of interests that aren’t just work and training, to maintain a healthy mental and physical state. Flexibility allows for this. It’s important to remember that mental fatigue can be a source of physical fatigue (stress is stress), so we must account for this.
Further, the training load needs to be balanced appropriately with recovery time, to ensure favorable training adaptions are made. This means the next time we do ‘said workout’ or activity, we are able to handle it better, push ourselves a little further, and likely elicit another positive training response.
Environmental Stressors Impacting Recovery for the Distance Runner
I decided to include a section on environmental stressors as external to the training load itself, environmental factors can impact our recovery and therefore need to be considered.
If an athlete lives in an environment of high altitude or intense heat, per se, this needs to be considered in the training program and predicting ‘total-training stress’ (TTS). Training Peaks track this (sans environmental stress) which can be useful to gain a rough understanding when tracked over a few training cycles of general fatigue. I won’t go into this too much, but you can check it out here.
I live at a moderate altitude, around 2350m – so it’s fitting for me to discuss altitude as environmental stress on physiological systems. You’ll hear of athletes adopting varied training protocols such as live-high train-low (LHTL) or live-high-train-high (LHTH) in an attempt to gain favorable adaptions for their specific events. ( Generally agreed as, High (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]).
However, adaptions will vary depending on the type of exposure the athlete has. For example, are they chronically adapted (they have lived for an extended period of time at said altitude)? Do they expose themselves to altitude in acute episodes? A series of encounters consistently over time? Even then, the athlete’s response will likely be highly varied from individual to individual. There’s decreased oxygen availability and therefore higher cardiac output. Adaptions to better oxygenate tissue in the body include a higher hemoglobin (Hb) count. Increased Hb levels allow the body to better oxygenate working muscles. To explore this a little further, EPO (a hormone) production from the kidney in response to hypoxia will spike (peak) within 48hrs of exposure to elicit bone marrow-produced red blood cells (red bone marrow), to increase oxygen carrying capacity of blood in the body to the tissue. Red blood cells use Hb to transport oxygen around the body. Having a higher red blood cell count will boost Hb count. You’ll perform at a higher level the more efficiently your body can oxygenate tissue in response to the increased demands. Think of it like a repeating cycle in the body’s fight for better blood oxygen levels at altitude. Why am I discussing this in an article about recovery? Because this environmental factor, and the type of exposure, need to be considered when planning training load and recovery time. Stress is stress. Severe Hypoxia is a large stress on the system. Account for it with extra CHO (carbohydrate intake) and food intake in general, watch your fluid and electrolyte levels, and ensure you are putting up your feet enough!
Next, just make sure you’re fit. You can buy all the gadgets in the world, but fitness and overall health will win out in the end. If you will be racing at altitude and you don’t have the chance to train at a similar height often, follow an acclimation protocol. I won’t go into detail here as that is very individual and race-based.
What Drinks Help Sore Muscles?
I personally wouldn’t resort to ‘drinks’ as a sole aid in muscle recovery, however, there are a few which can assist in the recovery process. Before I briefly write about this, can we give a big shout-out to water first and foremost? Water is your friend! Extra bold this if you have heightened environmental stressors too.
Tart Cherry juice, such as my favourite, Cheribundi, aids in sleep and therefore can assist in recovery. This is due to the higher melatonin content in tart cherries. Magnesium powder such as this one by Natural Vitality has helped my sleep and inflammation, although I’m not a regular user. I prefer to get most of my nutrients from food (macro and micro!)